Tombstone: The Untold Story of Mao’s Great Famine by Yang Jisheng (Translated by Stacy Mosher & Guo Jian) - review by Steve Tsang

Steve Tsang

Great Leap Backward

Tombstone: The Untold Story of Mao’s Great Famine


Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 630pp £30

From the perspective of the Communist Party that governs China, this book is highly critical of the country’s recent history. Yet it is anything but anti-China. The author, Yang Jisheng, is a long-standing and devoted member of the Party, who clearly loves his country and its people. It was this devotion that led him to research meticulously the history of what is almost certainly the worst famine in human history. The result is powerful and moving, the first truthful and properly documented account by a citizen of the People’s Republic of China of the famine, unspeakable suffering and dehumanising consequences that were the results of Mao Zedong’s policy known as the Great Leap Forward (1958–61). It is the most authoritative available and a must-read for anyone who wants to understand China under the Communist Party or the effects of a modern totalitarian system.

The author saw his father starved to death but believed the official version of history and even joined the Party. He only found out the reality three decades later as he started his research for this book. As a senior Xinhua journalist he had privileged access to provincial archives. He

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RLF - March